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Gay Christian Movement: Blasphemy Investigation

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Commissioner informs me that the cost of the investigation is assessed at £6,800. This is based on an approximate assessment of time spent on the investigation by the officers involved. No other similar investigations have been carried out.

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Gambling: Club Membership

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether an adult is legally required to take up membership of a club or association before entering into any of the following activities: (a) buying a National Lottery ticket; (b) betting on a horse race in a betting shop; (c) playing an amusement-- with prizes--machine in a licensed public house; or (d) playing bingo.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Of these activities, membership of a club is legally required for the playing of bingo in licensed bingo clubs. To play bingo in these premises, a person must be 18 and a member of the club or a bona fide guest.

Gambling: Employment

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people are employed by (a) bingo halls, (b) betting shops, and (c) gaming machine manufacturers and suppliers.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We do not collect such figures but the trade associations estimate that in Great Britain approximately 27,000 people are employed by licensed bingo clubs, 36,000 by off-course betting shops and 2,445 by gaming machine manufacturers and suppliers.

Theft of Handbags from Vehicles

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on the number of car drivers who have had a handbag or other possessions stolen from the passenger seat whilst the vehicle is caught in traffic.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: No statistics are available centrally. The recorded crime ('Notifiable offences') series does not separately identify these offences--they are included in the 'theft from vehicles' offence classification. The British Crime Survey also counts such incidents as theft from vehicles and cannot separately distinguish incidents in which the driver was in the vehicle.

Post Office: Medical Insurance

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a travel insurance policy provided in conjunction with the Post Office imposes a 100 per cent. increase in premium on elderly people, even when travel is confined to the EU and despite the mutual recognition which entitles United Kingdom citizens to healthcare in other EU countries; and whether they consider this to be reasonable.

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The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): Post Office Counters Ltd (POCL) offer travel insurance in partnership with General Accident at post offices. This is a commercial matter for the Post Office who advise that the premiums are based on the intended destination and the duration of the visit. The premium is doubled in the case of people aged 65 to 79 reflecting the increased underwriting risk. I understand that it is standard practice within the travel insurance industry to increase premiums for over 65s in view of the claims history of this age group.

The medical cover for Untied Kingdom citizens in other EU countries under the E111 scheme is only for the standard free health cover in the country visited and varies widely from country to country. The POCL policy offers comprehensive medical cover including repatriation costs.

World Trade Organisation

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the criteria and procedures for admission to the World Trade Organisation.

Lord Clinton-Davis: Once an application for accession from a potential new member country has been accepted by the WTO's General Council, a working party is established. The first task of the working party is to examine all the rules and regulations affecting trade in the applicant country. Once the information-gathering stage is complete, negotiations begin on the terms and conditions of accession. The objective of these negotiations is to ensure that the WTO rules for trade in goods, services and intellectual property rights are fully applied. Save for transitional periods on a case-by-case basis, application of the fundamental WTO principles of non-discrimination and transparency, there is scope for negotiations. In parallel with negotiations on the rules, WTO members negotiate market access commitments in goods (tariffs) and services bilaterally with the applicant country. There is no set timetable for any part of this process; it depends largely on the pace set by the applicant country, for example, in providing information and making offers. On final agreements being reached, the outcome, in the form of a working party report, a protocol of accession, and schedules of market access commitments by the applicant country, are forwarded to the General Council for adoption. Once adopted, the applicant country becomes a WTO member 30 days after it has cleared any relevant internal ratification procedures.

Arms Sales: Export Licences

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many arms sales licences to foreign countries have been granted since they came into office.

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Lord Cinton-Davis: From 2 May 1997 up to and including 18 July 1997, 1,630 export licences were granted for the export of military, security or para-military goods, arms ammunition or related material, controlled under Group I of Part III of the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994: 1,602 were standard individual export licences and 28 were open individual export licences.

Marine Policy and Industry

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as recommended by Foresight (Progress Through Partnership) 16 Marine, published by the Office of Science and Technology, they intend to "appoint a lead Department to act as the United Kingdom authority for co-ordinating and sponsoring marine policy in support of industry" and, if so, which.

Lord Clinton-Davis: This is one of several recommendations which seeks to improve co-ordination within government of issues affecting the marine sector and is currently under consideration.

Child Care Vouchers

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Further to his reply of 17 July (WA 119), why child care vouchers do not appear to be issued to staff of the House not required to work during Recesses; whether he is aware that most nurseries require continuous payment in order to keep the child's place open (irrespective of attendance of the child); and whether assistance will be provided to those members of staff who can show that they will lose their nursery place due to the lack of child care vouchers.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): Child care vouchers are issued to enable a parent to come to work at the House; they are not therefore issued when there is no requirement to attend. The Establishment Office is aware that some nurseries may require continuous payment but does not consider that this in any way invalidates its child care voucher policy and no further extension is proposed.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether he is aware of any hardship caused to staff of the House by the non-availability of child care vouchers on days in which they do not work during Recesses.

The Chairman of Committees: No.

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Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether there has been any change in policy this year as to the availability of child care vouchers for staff of the House not required to work during the summer Recess.

The Chairman of Committees: No.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether child care vouchers are issued to staff of the House who fall sick; and, if not, whether assistance will be provided to staff who can produce a doctor's certificate to the effect that they are medically unfit to look after a child and therefore require the services of a nursery or childminder.

The Chairman of Committees: Child care vouchers continue to be issued to eligible staff who are absent through sickness, on the same basis as for other staff, provided their doctor testifies that they are unable to look after their child.


Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they propose to take to counter the smuggling of CFCs and, in particular, whether they favour the banning of sales and stockpiles of CFCs.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Government continue to be vigilant in trying to prevent illegal imports of CFCs, and Her Majesty's Customs and Excise has carried out a threat assessment to identify the risk from such trade and methods of combating it. A seminar on international environmental crime held in October 1996 also examined ways of tackling this problem. The Government support the proposal put forward by the European Union to the Open-ended Working Group of the Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol for a ban on the sale of virgin CFCs.

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